We learned last week that Canada’s three territorial leaders agree that a carbon tax would prompt the high cost of living to soar even higher, and they say that they will look at alternative ways to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski did acknowledge that “carbon pricing is meant to change people’s habits,” while N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod admitted that “we could institute a carbon price in certain sectors.”
The Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut governments are major beneficiaries of Canada’s national policies, in particular territorial formula financing. The federal government is on record as attaching a high priority to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions in line with our commitment taken in Paris last autumn. Putting a price on carbon across the country is a key strategy to attain this goal. The refusal of our government to cooperate with this national strategy doesn’t reflect well on the Yukon.
Canada has proposed a minimum carbon tax for all of Canada of $15 per tonne of CO2. For the Yukon, this would amount to 3.5 cents per litre increase for gasoline and other fossil fuels. To claim that we can’t afford this increase when the price of gasoline rose by 10 cents per litre in the past week without protest questions the validity of this argument.
Data are clear that the costs of climate change will increase in the future for the Yukon. Specifically, scientific research indicates that we will be faced with increasing costs in fighting forest fires, in dealing with permafrost changes to highways and buildings and with flooding. Permafrost changes are clear and costs will continue to rise.
Professor Mike Flannigan, an expert in the wildfires and weather/climate interaction at the University of Alberta, points to the growing area in Canada (including the Yukon) devastated by wildfires. He notes the toxic soup of the fire smoke-related health risks, property damage and the drop in our national GDP caused in part by forest fires in 2011 and 2015. Our neighbouring jurisdictions of Alaska and N.W.T. faced costly fire seasons recently. Fort McMurray continues to burn as we write.
The energy economist Professor Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University has conducted research that shows that a modest increase in carbon pricing, combined with targeted federal regulations, can enable Canada to meet our Paris targets without harming even our trade-exposed industries.
Our governments, present and future, must look at all the costs of climate change now and in the future. Furthermore, in the years ahead our premier will have to make the case to Ottawa for transfer payment increases to cover the rising costs of climate change adaptation. Would it not be much easier for our leader to make that case when we have done our part on combating climate change in the first instance by playing ball today on the current federal initiative?